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Argumentative Essays

Argumentative Essays

Author: Martina Shabram

In this lesson, students will learn about the purpose and components of an argumentative essay.

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Source: [image of debate, public domain,] [image of soda, public domain,] [image of book, public domain,]

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram. And I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So let's get started.

What are we going to learn in this lesson? Well, today we're covering argumentative essays. We'll discuss how they're structured and what their thesis statements look like in order to differentiate this mode of writing from other modes.

We'll start by reviewing the modes of writing. You may recall that modes refer to the different types of writing that serve different purposes. Narrative mode tells a story. Descriptive provides sensory detail about persons, places, and things. Informative researches and presents data without bias. And argumentative takes a side in a debate and then supports that claim, logic, and reasoning.

So let's focus on argumentation more. The purpose of argumentative writing is to present a thesis statement on a topic that is worthy of debate, and then support that thesis statement using reasoning, logic, and research information. This unit will spend time focusing more closely on some aspects of argumentative writing.

And there are a number of models you might use to structure an argumentative essay. But in this course, our argumentative essays will all follow this structure. They'll start with an introduction, which presents a thesis that takes a position on a debatable topic.

A debatable topic covers an issue about which people can argue, differ in opinion, or disagree. So a debatable topic might be something like, should the US Government tax sugar sodas. This is a topic that many people disagree on and that has many possible sides, pro and con.

A non-debatable approach wouldn't be an argument worth having, perhaps something like, is soda a liquid. It's obvious there's only one answer. Yes, soda is a liquid. So this isn't an issue about which reasonable people could disagree.

Think, then, about the difference between a topic like, are romance novels books and do romance novels create unrealistic expectations about romantic relationships? The former isn't a debate. So we could only rationally answer that question in the affirmative. But the latter might elicit some real disagreement from people.

Those who don't believe that they cause any harm to readers would argue no. While folks who are worried about what these narratives are doing to us might argue yes. Your thesis statement should always be taking a side on one of these debatable topics, not merely stating a fact.

So second, our essays will provide at least three body paragraphs that offer support for the thesis and use logical reasoning and rhetorical appeals to build support for the thesis. We're going to spend more time covering rhetorical appeals later. So for now, just know that they are logical, emotional, or ethical strategies that you'll use in your writing to persuade or convince your readers. And finally, our essays will always end with a conclusion that summarizes and provides closure on the main point of the essay.

So now, in order to write these argumentative essays, we're going to need argumentative thesis statements. A thesis statement is a single sentence that expresses the controlling idea for a piece of writing. So the thesis statement expresses the main idea of the whole essay. Just as in a paragraph, the topic sentence expresses the main point of that paragraph.

In an argumentative thesis statement, we'll make a strong claim about a worthwhile debate. So this is different than the topic, which is broader. This is actually choosing a side on the debate that the topic presents. And in an argumentative essay, the thesis statement is going to make the central argument that the rest of the essay will back up with support.

Let's practice. Here are three thesis statements. Which are argumentative and which aren't? Take a moment to read these. Feel free to pause. And press play when you're done.

OK. This first one here, it's not argumentative, is it. Notice how it's making a statement of fact. This claim is either true or false. But there is not a debate about it. This thesis would be better for an informative essay.

Now the second thesis, though this covers a topic that's clearly more controversial, this is still not argumentative. Again, look at the claim. Is it debatable or simply true? It's hard to imagine that anyone could physically disagree with this statement, as international treaties will certainly affect the industries they govern. That's what they're designed to do. So again, this is more suited for an informative essay that would explain what these treaties are and how they function.

So the last one, then, that's our argumentative thesis statement. See, right away it uses the word should. That is a clue for us. And it tells us that this is advocating for an action to be taken. Someone should do something.

So we immediately know that this is an argumentative claim because I could argue that someone should do that and someone else could disagree and argue against me. So people can disagree with this claim. And they can take up either side and they can argue. All of those are ways that we know that this is argumentative.

So let's practice some more. Here's a short essay. But it's going to be missing something essential-- it's thesis statement. Take a moment to read it by pausing. And go ahead and press play when you're finished.

OK, here now are two potential thesis statements that we could use to fill in the blank. Which is more effective? This one here introduces the topic that we know this essay discusses. And it does indicate that there is a debate. But does it make an argument about that debate, does it take a side? No. So this, it's just not argumentative.

The other thesis statement, however, takes a side. It stays on the topic. It presents the debate. And then it makes an argumentative claim that it wants to convince you of.

So what did we learn today? This lesson covered argumentation. We reviewed how argumentative essays look, how an argumentative thesis statement will work. And then we practiced selecting effective thesis statements that make clear claims about debatable topics.

Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know

Takes a clear position on a debatable question and backs up claims with evidence and reasoning.

Thesis Statement

A single sentence that expresses the controlling idea for a piece of writing.